Category Archives: Nesting & Courtship

Climbing the Exit Ramp

Two chicks at the nest but unseen by streaming camera, 5 June 2021, 6:10am

5 June 2021

None of the Pitt peregrine chicks fledged on 2 June as predicted. Nor had they fledged by the end of yesterday’s Fledge Watch on 4 June. However, only three chicks slept in the nest last night so one probably flew yesterday afternoon.

UPDATE as of 5 June, 11:00am: By 11am, 3 of the 4 chicks had fledged. One was flying so well he landed on the globe on top of Carnegie Museum.

UPDATE as of 6 June, 5:00am: Yesterday morning we definitely saw 2 fledged chicks but never 3 at the same time. We could not find the 3rd chick so we assumed it had flown. However, two chicks slept at the nest last night while two (fledged) chicks slept elsewhere. I am revising my statement: As of 5 June, 2 of 4 chicks have fledged. Fledge watch today will be HOT. Bring water.

Only 3 chicks slept at the nest last night, 4 June 11:08pm

This morning at 6:10am there were two chicks at the nest but neither was visible on the streaming camera. One chick had climbed the exit ramp under the snapshot camera. The other was perched on the nestbox roof, talons and tip of the tail visible. See photo at top.

The cameras looked very different at that moment (below). Click here to see the snapshots in real time.

Two camera views. Streaming camera cannot see the chicks, 5 June 2021, 06:10am

At least one has flown. Let the games begin!

(Snapshots from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Fledge Watch Tips: Have They Flown?

Downtown Pittsburgh Fledge Watch, 7 June 2019 (photo by John English)

4 June 2021

How do you know if a peregrine chick has flown? Is that flying peregrine a chick or an adult? Here are some tips on what to look for.

1. Count heads to figure out if any have flown. You’ll have to be onsite to do this.

Count the peregrine chicks perched at the nest via falconcam and at the launch zone. If you count all of them they probably haven’t flown yet. If some are missing …

Peregrine chicks on the nestrail, 2 June 2021 (photo by John English)

If some chicks are missing, walk around to find them using the clues below. Each site is different. At Pitt, walk around the Cathedral of Learning.

2. Look for the parents: What are they looking at?

Morela on the roof, 2 June 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

When a chick has newly flown one of the parents will perch near it and stare at it. At this early stage of flight the chick is vulnerable. The parent is guarding it.

3. Listen for peregrine “whining.”

When a young peregrine is hungry he whines loudly to get attention. A fledgling away from the nest will call very loudly saying, “I’m over here! Bring food!!” This is not a distress signal. It is “teenage” whining.

4. Watch and listen for upset songbirds warning of a predator.

American robin vocalizing (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Songbirds will raise the alarm when they see a young peregrine perched nearby. Most will make alarm calls, a few may dive-bomb to drive it away. American robins are the loudest and most likely to be nearby. Here’s a robin alarm call.

5. Difference in appearance in flight: Juveniles have a pale tip on the tail.

The colors brown (juvenile) vs. gray (adult) are hard to tell at a backlit distance. However in June juveniles have fresh tail feathers while adults do not. Fresh tail feathers in both plumages have pale tips that glow when sunlight shines through them. If you see an obviously pale tail tip, chances are you’re looking at a juvenile.

Here’s a juvenile peregrine at Pitt in 2012.

Juvenile peregrine at Pitt, June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

Adults have worn off the tips of their tails by dragging them on the nest gravel for the past four months.

Adult peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

5. Difference in flight behavior: In the first few days of flight juveniles flap a lot and will not stoop. They also land carefully, shown below.

Young peregrine flapping a lot and landing slowly at Pitt, June 2012 (photo by Peter Bell)

As they get better at flying the juveniles flap less and land more confidently. However, it takes some weeks for them to master the stoop. In the first week of flight any peregrine flying like this (below) has to be an adult.

Peregrine falcon, Henry, stooping in Shaker Heights Ohio (photo by Chad+Chris Saladin)

Watch peregrines on your own or join me at Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza today and Sunday, 11:30a-1p.

There’s always something new to learn about peregrines. Let me know what you see.

(photos by John English, Charity Kheshgi, Wikimedia Commons, Peter Bell, Dana Nesiti, Chad+Chris Saladin)

Fledge Watch Update, 3 Jun

Two Pitt peregrine chicks on the nestrail, 2 June 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

3 June 2021

Pitt peregrine news as of 3 June 2021, 7:30am:

  • We had fun at Fledge Watch yesterday with good looks at the adults and three chicks on the nestrail. Thanks to all who came out to watch.
  • The adults stooped at prey several times. Exciting!
  • At least one adult was always present at the Cathedral of Learning, waiting and watching for the chicks to fledge.
  • Morela no longer has a right shoulder feather that sticks out. Alas, her easy-to-identify marker is gone.
  • None of the peregrine chicks fledged yesterday. I know this because fledglings do not return to the nest; they sleep where they land. All four chicks slept at the nest last night.
  • If the forecast is correct, Friday 4 June Fledge Watch will be canceled because of rain and lightning. If the forecast is wrong I’ll be there.

Fledge Watch 2 June 2021 in photos.

Morela watches from the roof, 2 June 2021 (photo by John English)
Ecco delivers lunch; two chicks get excited, 2 June 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)
Ecco watches from a merlon, left of the nestrail, 2 June 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)
A chick looks upside down as his sibling flap-walks, 2 June 2021 (photo by Charity Kheshgi)

From our vantage point at the tent, the rooftop equipment nearly obscured Morela on the lightning rod. Can you see her?

Adult on the lightning rod, almost obscured from this angle (photo by John English)

We moved to the lawn for a better look. Then I got talking … (That’s me on the far left.)

Last night all four chicks slept in the nestbox …

… and were raring to go this morning!

Raring to go on Thursday morning, 3 June 2021 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

The last one perches near the exit ramp. It won’t be long now.

Last chick at the nest, 3 June 2021, 7:49am (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Stop by Schenley Plaza between the raindrops to watch the peregrines. Keep looking up!

(photos by Charity Kheshgi and John English)

Someone Will Probably Fledge Today

Three peregrine chicks on the nestrail, 1 June 2021, 4:05pm (photo by Kate St. John)

2 June 2021

As of yesterday afternoon, three of the four Pitt peregrine chicks had walked off camera. At 4pm I counted heads from Schenley Plaza using my scope and cellphone (viewing live snapshots of the nest). 3 on the nestrail + 1 in the nest = no one was in the gully under the nest, and no one had flown.

Later they flap-walked along the railing. Here’s one in the middle.

Morela watched from the lightning rod.

Morela on the lightning rod, watching the chicks from above, 1 June 2021, 5pm (photo by Kate St. John)

How do I know it’s Morela? For the past week or two she’s had a feather sticking out on her right shoulder. It may have been dinged in an aerial battle similar to E2’s wing gap in May 2012. Morela will eventually molt out the bent feather but in the meantime it’ll be easy to identify her at Fledge Watch.

When you come to Schenley Plaza to see the peregrine chicks, here’s where to look at the Cathedral of Learning.

  • The tall pole on top of the building is a lightning rod with four triangular antennas. If there’s a dot on one of the antennas it’s a peregrine.
  • The nestrail is the low wall with 5 cutouts. Chicks flap-walk on top of the nestrail and may flatten themselves to nap (then they’re hard to see). Look on top of the nestrail and inside the cutouts for peregrine chicks.
South face of Cathedral of Learning, Forbes Avenue side (photo by Kate St. John)

What happens next?

  • There’s usually a two day gap between first chick on the nestrail (31 May) and first flight. That means first flight could be today, 2 June.
  • The nestrail chicks go back and forth to the nest at will. Last evening their parents fed them at the nest and all four slept there last night.
  • The chicks will return to the nest as long as their parents deliver food to it. Nest food deliveries will cease after all four have flown.

Don’t forget Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza, June 2,4,6, 11:30a-1p. Someone will probably fledge today.

(photos by Kate St. John and from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Peregrine News from Other Nests, 1 June

Two of three chicks at Tarentum Bridge, 30 May 2021 (photo by Dave Brooke)

1 June 2021

It’s All Peregrines All The Time with news from three other peregrine nests in the Pittsburgh area.

Allegheny River, Tarentum Bridge:

The chicks at the Tarentum Bridge are more advanced (older) than any other nest we’ve been monitoring, close to a week older than the Pitt peregrines. When Dave Brooke stopped by to see them on Sunday 30 May he found only two of three. His photo above is a screenshot from the video he mentions in email below. See Dave’s video here.

I only saw 2 young ones today. Perhaps the other fledged. You can’t hear it in this video, but the reason they are looking up is one of their parents was flying overhead calling.

— email from Dave Brooke, 30 May 2021

Monongahela Watershed: Westinghouse Bridge

Adult flying in to the Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Dana Nesiti stopped by the Westinghouse Bridge on Friday 28 May and saw four members of the peregrine family. The adults flew together and perched on the bridge, then two youngsters peeked out of the nest area. The chicks appear to be close in age to the Pitt peregrines.

Adults flying together, Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Female peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
Unbanded male peregrine at Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
One of two chicks to make an appearance at Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)
The other chick at Westinghouse Bridge, 28 May 2021 (photo by Dana Nesiti)

Downtown Pittsburgh:

Two adult peregrines perched at Lawrence Hall, 30 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

On Sunday afternoon 30 May four of us met on Third Avenue to view the Downtown peregrine family. Jeff Cieslak and his wife arrived from Mt. Washington where Jeff photographed three chicks and one adult during a feeding. John English and I could hear that feeding but saw nothing.

Three youngsters at the Third Avenue nest, Downtown Pittsburgh, 30 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Adult feeds a youngster at the Third Avenue nest, Downtown Pittsburgh, 30 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

Eventually I noticed one adult on the gargoyle at Lawrence Hall (photo above)) and Jeff’s wife saw the second one on a window ledge. The windowsill peregrine appears to be Dori.

Adult male at Lawrence Hall, 30 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)
Dori dozes at Lawrence Hall, 30 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

At Pitt the young peregrines are so restless that one walked off the nest — and back again — yesterday afternoon. Visit Schenley Plaza any time this week to see them fledge. I’ll be there for Fledge Watch on June 2, 4, 6, 11:30a-1:00p. The watch is weather-dependent. If it’s pouring or thundering the Watch will be canceled.

Meanwhile, there are seven other peregrine sites in southwestern Pennsylvania at least four of which are active. Have you checked them out? Leave a comment if you have news.

  • Monongahela River: Speers Railroad Bridge, Washington County
  • Ohio River: McKees Rocks Bridge, Allegheny County
  • Ohio River: Neville Island I-79 Bridge, NO PEREGRINES DUE TO CONSTRUCTION
  • Ohio River: Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, Beaver County, NO PEREGRINES?
  • Ohio River: Monaca Railroad Bridge, Beaver County
  • Allegheny River: 62nd Street to Aspinwall Railroad Bridge, NO PEREGRINES?
  • Allegheny River: Rt 422 Graff Bridge Kittanning, Armstrong County

(photos by Dave Brooke, Dana Nesiti and Jeff Cieslak)

Big Changes In One Week

Four Pitt peregrine chicks, 30 May 2021, 18:51 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

31 May 2021

In one week from 23 to 30 May 2021 the Pitt peregrine chicks changed a lot. Having hatched on 25 April 2021 (the fourth hatched a day later), they turned five weeks old.

On Sunday 23 May 2021 most were 28 days old, the fourth was 27 days. Notice that they were fluffy white with a few patches of brown feathers. Only one had a brown chest with downy fluffs.

The video below shows them resting during the heat of the day and lining up in an orderly fashion for each feeding. They are so well behaved that Ecco stays with them and sunbathes. It was hot — 87 degrees F in the shade!

Four Pitt peregrine chicks, 23 May 2021, 9:46 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)
Someone is shouting, Pitt peregrine chicks, 23 May 2021, 7:44a (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

On Sunday 30 May, they were 35 (and 34) days old and far more rambunctious! On the previous morning a chick snatched breakfast from Ecco’s beak and mantled over her private feast. Well, they’re old enough to feed themselves so that was the end of the lineup. Yesterday their parents just dropped the food and ran.

On 29 May 2021 a chick snatches breakfast from Ecco. The rest complain! (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

When a parent perched above them, the chicks tried to get as close as possible on the green perch or the side of the box.

One chick in front, one on the side, 30 May 2021, 17:22
Two on the green perch, 30 May 2021, 17:10

When they see their parents they crowd and shout and flap their wings.

We flap and shout for Food! 30 May 2021, 16:54 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

One day soon all this restless activity will lead to first flight. Before that happens they will ledge walk up to the nest rail and disappear from camera view. Here’s a digiscope view of the nestrail with one of the adults on it.

Come down to Schenley Plaza in the next week to 10 days to see the Pitt peregrine chicks learn to fly. Join me for Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza on June 2, 4, 6.

(photos and video from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Ledge Walking Begins

Chick on the green perch, 27 May 2021, 13:25 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

28 May 2021

Yesterday the Pitt peregrine chicks passed a big milestone on their way to first flight. Two times on Thursday, at 1:35p and 2:45p, one of the chicks flapped up to the green perch. Ledge walking has begun.

Before peregrine chicks have flight feathers the young are hard wired not to leave the nest for a step off the cliff means certain death.

After they have flight feathers the chicks prepare to leave the nest by flapping their new wings, walking around the ledge and flap-running across the surface. This leads to their first big milestone: the first step off the nest. At Pitt that first step is the green perch.

At 1:35pm a chick flapped his way up to the green perch and watched the sky intently, as shown in the video below. Notice the feather pattern on this chick’s chest. I think he is a different bird than the second ledge-walker.

An hour later another chick hopped up to the green perch.

Again notice the feather pattern on his chest. Is he the same bird as the first ledge walker? I don’t think so.

Peregrine chick on green perch, 27 May 2021, 14:56 (photo from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh)

Eventually all four chicks will ledge walk, though one or two are clearly ahead of the others. Over the weekend one or more will ledge walk out of camera view. Don’t panic if you can’t find all four. The early birds are making their way to the nest rail where they will make their first flight.

Join me for Fledge Watch at Schenley Plaza on June 2, 4, 6.

Downtown Peregrine News, 25 May

Adult peregrine at the Third Avenue nest, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)

27 May 2021

Thanks to photos by Jeff Cieslak and Lori Maggio we have news of the adult peregrines and chicks at the Third Avenue nest in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Dori is (probably) the resident female. Lori photographed a pinkish USFW right leg band on one of the adults on 23 May, an unusual color that’s the same as Dori’s. Dori hatched in Akron, Ohio in 2007 and has nested in Downtown Pittsburgh since 2010. She is 14 years old.

Adult peregrine in flight showing leg bands, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)
Closeup of leg band colors, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Here’s a two year old photo of Dori showing her face, chest and leg bands.

Closeup of Dori including her bands, Downtown Pittsburgh, 20 May 2019 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Adult male has a silver USFW right leg band. Lori’s photos on 23 May give us several views of the resident male. The photos at top and below show him facing forward.

Adult peregrine at the Third Avenue nest, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Then he turned and showed his silver right leg band.

Adult peregrine turned to show silver right leg band, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Last year the new resident male had a silver right leg band as shown in Lori’s photo on 28 June 2020. (Dori’s previous mate, Louie, died in the summer of 2019.)

Adult peregrine with silver colored right leg band, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2020-06-28 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Considering Dori’s lightly spotted breast these face-shots by Jeff Cieslak on 25 May are probably the resident male.

Three face shots of adult peregrine in Downtown Pittsburgh, 25 May 2021 (photo by Jeff Cieslak)

At least 3 chicks in the nest. Viewing the nest from Mt. Washington, Jeff and Lori’s photos indicate there are at least three chicks in the nest. Jeff’s slideshow on 14 May make it easy to count white chicks in the lower opening.

Slideshow of Downtown peregrine nest as seen from Mt. Washington, 14 May 2021 (photos and animation by Jeff Cieslak)

Lori’s image from 23 May, below, confirms that count. Notice three white blobs with the short dark tails. I think they are slightly younger than the Pitt nestlings because they are whiter than the Pitt chicks were on 23 May. I expect them to fledge some time between June 1 and June 10.

Appears to be 3 chicks at the Third Avenue nest, 23 May 2021 (photo by Lori Maggio)

Since Third Avenue is partially blocked by construction, I am not going to schedule a formal Downtown Fledge Watch. However, I encourage everyone to stop by Third Avenue to see the adults and eventually chicks at the edge of the ledge.

If you take photos, please let me know in a comment and we’ll swap addresses. Maybe your photo will be the one to identify the adults!

(photos by Lori Maggio and Jeff Cieslak)

Tarentum Peregrines: This Is The Week!

Young chick flapping at Tarentum Bridge (photo by Lynn Mamros)

25 May 2021

If you’ve been putting off a trip to Tarentum to see the peregrines don’t wait any longer. This is the week to watch!

Thanks to Dave Brooke’s photos earlier this month we learned the chicks were 18-20 days old on 9 May so they must have hatched 19-21 April and are due to fledge around 29 May. The best time to watch peregrines is before the young fly. That’s this week through Memorial Day.

The Tarentum chicks were active outside the nest last weekend, walking on the pier and testing their wings. They begged loudly when their parents arrived, a sound that’s hard to miss from the Tarentum boat ramp.

Dave Brooke stopped by on Sunday 23 May and saw the youngsters preening. Click here for his video of the three chicks.

Three peregrine chicks at the Tarentum Bridge nest, 23 May 2021 (photo by Dave Brooke)

Lynn Mamros was on hand for a feeding. The chicks loafed on the pier, at top, then rushed their mother to get a share of dinner, a bird with long legs. (Peregrines eat birds.)

Peregrine chicks beg for dinner at Tarentum Bridge, May 2021 (photo by Lynn Mamros)
Peregrine family at Tarentum Bridge (photo by Lynn Mamros)
Peregrine family at Tarentum Bridge (photo by Lynn Mamros)
Peregrine family at Tarentum Bridge (photo by Lynn Mamros)
The chick in front tries to eat a very long leg (photo by Lynn Mamros)
After dinner the young went back to the nestbox to rest (photo by Lynn Mamros)

Visit the Tarentum boat launch or the sidewalk on 1st Avenue to watch the youngsters before they fly.  Click here for a map.

p.s. Lynn Mamros reminded me that the Tarentum Bridge will close for construction on 9 June. This closure will not affect the young peregrines. They will have left the pier long ago and will not be dependent on it by then.

(photos by Dave Brooke and Lynn Mamros)

City Peregrine Chooses Country Home

58/AP in Bradford County (photo by Teri Franzen)

21 May 2021

Peregrine watchers were thrilled last year when a pair of peregrines established a nest at a new site in rural Bradford County, PA. Observers could tell the male was banded but no one could read his bands until Teri Franzen captured a photo last week.

Art McMorris, Peregrine Coordinator at the PA Game Commission (PGC), confirmed that Black/Green 58/AP hatched at the Third Avenue nest site in Downtown Pittsburgh in 2018 in one of the most unusual nesting years we’ve ever seen in Allegheny County.

When Dori and Louie began to nest in the spring of 2018, the building below their nest was being renovated to become Keystone Flats. At first the work was indoors but when it moved outside the workers would need a crane too close to the nest.

Construction near the Third Avenue nest, 11 May 2018 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

The developer believed he could not wait 20-30 days for the young to fledge so he got a takings permit from US Fish and Wildlife who delegated the job to the PA Game Commission (PGC). PGC removed the chicks on 8 May 2018, took them to Humane Animal Rescue and banded them. (Read the story here.)

On 31 May 2018, when 58/AP and his brother were nearly old enough to fledge, PGC fostered them with an established peregrine pair at a cliff site in Luzerne County. In 2020 he was found nesting in Bradford County as shown on the map below.

It was a real surprise to discover that this city-born peregrine chose to nest in the country. During Pennsylvania’s peregrine recovery program many young peregrines were released at cliff sites but they usually ignored their rural beginnings and chose to nest on man-made structures in towns and cities. 58/AP came from an urban site and chose the country.

See stunning photos of 58/AP, his unbanded mate, and youngsters at Teri Franzen’s website: https://www.terifranzenphotography.com/gallery/birds/raptors/peregrine-falcons/

p.s. Because 58/AP and his parents were banded we know his genealogy. He’s the son of Downtown peregrines Dori (2007-?present) and Louie (2003-2019) and the grandson of Erie (1998-2007) and Dorothy (1999-2015) at the University of Pittsburgh. Dorothy was the matriarch who fledged 43 young at the Cathedral of Learning.

(photos by Teri Franzen and Doug Cunzolo, map from Wikimedia Commons)